Archive for July, 2013

Prior to any designs being sandblasted or laser etched onto a monument, the front and back of a monument is typically polished. There are some exceptions to this, such as when the back of a monument is rock pitched (not smooth). The sides of the monuments may or may not be polished, depending on the desired effect. However, any area on which a design or lettering is to be placed must first be polished. Polishing the granite creates a dark and shiny effect. The areas which are not polished look much lighter and dull when compared to the polished areas. The granite being polished allows for a much higher contrast once designs and lettering are sandblasted and/or laser etched into the surface.

What is sandblasting?

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Sandblasting is the operation of forcibly propelling a stream of fine sand against the surface of the granite under high pressure. This process removes the polished layer of the granite to reveal the unpolished granite underneath. When sandblasting, the lettering and designs are first all blasted to the same depth by a machine. In order to sandblast a monument, it must first be designed by a graphic artist. The artist will use vector software such as Monucad to create a file containing the lettering and designs that will be sandblasted onto the headstone. Only simple lettering and designs, often referred to as Line Art, can be sandblasted, as it is not possible to create small details using this method. Photos cannot be sandblasted.

In order to get the design and lettering needed, they are first cut into a rubber “mat”. This process can be done by hand or by machine. Here at Mike’s Laser Etching, we currently use our Vytek LSTAR Laser to cut the mats in a step we call Vector Cutting. The design and lettering must then be handpicked from the back of the stencil so the sand can cut it once it is in the sandblaster.  The headstone is placed on the workbench and stencil filler is applied to the front surface. The mat is then placed on the front of the headstone and is held in place by the stencil filler. The monument is then placed into the sandblasting cabinet, which will then propel the sand against all surfaces which are exposed and not covered by the mat.

Once all the designs and lettering are at the same depth, the monument is removed from the cabinet. At this point, a specialist hand shapes using abrasive air to create a smoother look to the lettering and to add additional detail which the machine is not capable of. The remainder of the stencil is then removed and the stone is cleaned to reveal the finished headstone. If an even higher level of contrast is desired, color can be added to the deepest areas of the designs and lettering.

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What color granite can be sandblasted?

Any color of granite can be sandblasted. However, when sandblasting an extremely light color of granite, such as white pearl, it is necessary to add color in order to ensure the design and lettering are visible. This is because the polished and unpolished surfaces of such light color granite are so similar that additional contrast is needed.

What is laser etching?

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The laser etching process removes the polished surface of the granite using a high powered laser to show the unpolished granite beneath in varying depths to create the image. You can think of the laser etching machine as a big printer, since the majority of the work is done on a computer and then sent to the laser for “printing”.  In order to produce a granite etching, it must first be designed by a graphic artist. The artist will use photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to create a BMP file containing the lettering, designs, & photos that are to be laser etched on the monument. Designs and photos must be carefully enhanced by the graphic artist so fine details such as the outline of a nose or teeth are visible in the granite engraving or marble etching.

The white and gray areas of the design are where the laser etches and the black areas are where no etching occurs and the black granite remains. This is why when a photo of someone with black or brown hair is etched a lighter background or soft glow outline around them is required to show where their hair starts and the background begins. The rest of the process involves the laser only. This process makes permanent photos on headstones possible.

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What colors can be laser etched?

Darker colors of granite are the best colors to laser etch because the darker colors create a better contrast between the gravestone and the image and bring out the most detail in pictures. Essentially, laser etching is likened to creating a grey-scale image that is emblazoned on the surface of the headstone. Grey-scale images work best against a dark background. With lighter shades of granite (such as beige), the colors barely bring out enough detail to discern the image from the granite. While lighter color granites do polish to a slightly darker tone, it does not bring out the breadth of detail that darker granites (such as black) do. Grey colored granite can be etched if it has a nice, even polished finish on the surface of the gravestone, but it also depends upon the type of etching that needs to be done.

Sometimes people choose to etch symbols and grave details into their gravestone markers, which is perfectly fine. However, most people will choose to etch very beautiful digital pictures of their loved ones or even photographs of hobbies or activities they enjoyed doing while alive. For example, if you’re loved one enjoyed fishing, an appropriate laser etch could include a photograph of your loved one fishing or a scenic image of their favorite fishing spot.

Laser etching adds a beautiful finish to the gravestone and a unique twist on the traditional concept of memorial designs. By selecting laser etching, you’re creating a distinct, creative headstone for your loved one’s legacy.

What options do I have if I want light colored granite but would still like a picture of my loved one included in the design?

Do not be discouraged! It is extremely common for our clients to request that a picture be added to a light colored monument. We have two options for doing so, and both are beautiful.

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The first option is to add a porcelain portrait to the design. Our Porcelain Portraits are created using the highest quality of 100% Italian Porcelain. We can use nearly any picture you would like, so long as the quality is good enough. The image can be done in color or in black and white and we can even edit out a background or a random hand or object that has appeared in the image.  When ordering a Porcelain Portrait with a monument, we will inlay the porcelain into the monument so that it sits flush with the granite. The Porcelain Portraits have a lifetime guarantee and are guaranteed to not fade or crack when exposed to the elements for hundreds of years.

For more information on our Porcelain Portraits, visit our website at:  http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/ceramic_portraits.html

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The other option for including an image on a light colored monument would be to add a Laser Etched Marble Portrait. These portraits are Laser Etched onto high quality marble and can also be inlaid into the monument in order to lay flush with the granite. Again, we can edit the image if you would like the background or an object removed. However, just like a laser etched monument, the final product would be a black and white image. If you would prefer the black and white, the Laser Etched Portraits are a perfect option for you and they are also guaranteed not to fade or crack!

For more information on our Laser Etched Portraits, visit our website at: http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/laser_etched_marble.html

Can I do a combination of both laser etching and sandblasting?

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Yes! We have created many designs which included both laser etching and sandblasting. These monuments were typically dark colored granite, as the laser etching cannot be done on a light colored granite. Each monument we design is completely customized using the information you provide us. If you would like to include both laser etching and sandblasting aspects into your design, all you need to do is let us know. Once we have an understanding of the desired outcome, we will review the options with you.

Contact us at 877-836-0332 or by email at info@mlestones.com!

If you can imagine it, we can create it!

To see pictures of some of our completed monuments, please visit our website at: http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/portfolio.html

 

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The official definition of “gravestone” is ‘a stone placed on a burial plot which is often inscribed in order to mark the person or persons who are buried there’. Gravestones can also be known as grave markers, headstones, and tombstones, and more recently monuments and memorials. In earlier times, there were no community cemeteries such as there are today. Rather, people had burial plots near their family homes. These can still be seen today and are even still used by some families, so long as they still own the ancestral land. Visiting these small family cemeteries allows one to see the evolution of gravestones.

The term gravestone emerged from a Jewish custom in which the visitors to a grave used to place stones at the head as a way to honor the deceased. This custom, in turn, was inspired from an incident wherein a Jew broke the Sabbath in order to write a note so as solve a crime. Later, he felt guilty for the act, even though it was necessary. After thorough contemplation of the incident, he decided that his grave should be ‘stoned’ after his death. So, the tradition of placing stones on a grave became popular thereafter.

The earlier graves were usually marked with rough stones, rocks, or wood. These items were placed on top of the grave apparently as a way to keep the dead from rising. Typically even the wooden markers would be inscribed with the deceased’s name, age and year of death. However, some only included a name, while others were not inscribed at all.

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As churchyard burials gradually evolved, large, square-shaped tombstones prepared from slate (1650-1900) or sandstone (1650-1890) replaced the random rocks or wood used previously. The inscriptions carved on slate used to be shallow yet readable. Many of the slate gravestones are now unreadable due to the elements wearing the rock down until it was even with the shallow inscriptions.

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As public cemeteries evolved in the 19th century, people started giving importance to the gravestones, headstones, footstones, etc. as a means to memorialize the dead. Thus, they started engraving the headstones with a small epitaph or a few words about the deceased. Some of the deceased would even instruct those who would survive them of what exactly they wished to be included on their gravestone.  In addition, they bore the identifying details that had been included on the original gravestones: the date of birth, the date of death and the full name of the departed. The greatest advantage of this tradition is that by reading the inscription on a gravestone, one can derive information which is vital to tracing his or her family history.

The Victorian era (1837-1901) greatly emphasized customs and practices associated with death. So, the period gave birth to elaborate tombstones and grave markers. The cemeteries appeared more like parks as they had such lavish and decorated gravestones, resembling statues rather than the traditional gravestones. It was during this time that the inclusion of sculptured designs, artwork and symbols became popular. These symbols denoted religious beliefs, social class, occupation, and several other aspects of the life of the deceased and included:

• angels of death

• star of David

• the Dove
• Egyptian symbol Ankh
• Eye of Horus
• weeping willow tree
• maple leaf
• flowers
• horseshoe
• sword
• broken column

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Unlike these symbols, which showed a respect and anticipation for death, most tombstone symbols from the Colonial period reflected fear of afterlife as they believed that only a few people would be allowed in the Heaven after death and the rest would be categorized as sinners.

Interestingly, in the 18th century, there emerged a short-lived burial practice of covering the graves with iron cages known as mortsafes. While there are many theories as to why this practice began, there is no real explanation. Most historians agree that fear of the departed returning to them as a vampire was likely a motivator for the placement of the mortsafes. This strange practice, though, died out by the end of the Victorian era.

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The most popular materials for gravestones during this era were marble (1780-1930), granite (1860-untill date), iron, and wood. Earlier, gravestones were used only by the middle and upper classes. However, after the emergence of the new Protestant theology, even lower classes started using grave markers for commemorating the life of the departed loved.

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Today, there are a large variety of gravestones one can choose from, although nearly every one is made of granite. Some cemeteries place strict limitations as to what type of gravestone can be placed in the cemetery. Typically, these limitations and restrictions are put in place for one of two reasons. Cemeteries which only allow flush markers to be installed do so in order to prevent the ground keeper from having to mow around each individual gravestone. With the flush markers, they can simply ride right over top of the gravestone, rather than having to mow and then use a weed eater. The cemeteries which are affiliated with religious organizations will often have limitations as well. Specifically with a Catholic cemetery, there are often only a few symbols allowed on a gravestone. These symbols will normally include a specific cross, praying hands, rosaries and other religious symbols. Typically, if a gravestone is installed with symbols which are not approved, the owner of the plot will be forced to remove the gravestone and replace it with one which meets the requirements.

However, if a gravestone is being placed in a family cemetery or a cemetery which does not have limitations, there are thousands of options as to what can be installed on the burial plot. Not only are there different shapes and sizes of monuments, there are a huge variety of colors as well. With the introduction of lasers, a photo can now be duplicated onto a gravestone, so that the deceased’s image will be forever remembered. Any poem or symbol can be laser etched or sandblasted onto the gravestone. A custom design can also be ordered from a manufacturer if one finds a monument company who deals directly with the manufacturer. Anything from a guitar to a butterfly can be seen in cemeteries.

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It’s amazing how far gravestones have come since the 1500’s!  Where do you think we’ll be in another 100 years? How will gravestones change will technology evolving so quickly? Let us know what you think!

Check out our custom monuments at: http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/custom_orders.html

Question of the Week!

Posted: July 16, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Mike’s Laser Etching has decided to do a weekly post for our readers. Each week, the staff here at Mike’s Laser Etching will be choosing a frequently asked question to answer for you. This week, our question is:

“Is it okay to pick out, design and purchase your own monument?”

This is a question that we get a lot. Up until recently, even speaking about a monument, (aka tombstone, memorial, gravestone, grave marker, etc) was taboo. Anything to do with death was never really discussed because it was such an uncomfortable topic. Thankfully, the newer generations have come to realize that even if you never discuss death, it is inevitable for everyone. Not only does this mean that people are purchasing life insurance and creating wills, it has also caused an increase in the number of people who are pre-purchasing their burial plots as well as their monuments. If you were to ask anyone who works in the funeral and monument business if they have pre-planned all of their arrangements, they will more than likely tell you that they have. There are several reasons for this.

If you have ever lost a loved one, and then had a large family, of which each individual had their own opinions about how things should happen, then you will understand the first major reason why we prefer to arrange everything ourselves. If every family member believes that things should be done their way, this can cause huge falling outs during a time when the family should be coming together to support each other and grieve for their lost loved one. I have seen families become so angry with one another, that they have ended up going to court to decide what should be done. After witnessing this, I recommend that everyone make it known exactly what you want when you pass. If possible, purchase and design your own monument. So long as your burial plot has been purchased, the monument you design can be placed on the plot long before you pass away. If you can save your family from the inevitable arguing designing a monument causes, why not just take care of it yourself?

Have you ever gone to visit a burial site of a close friend or loved one and when you saw the monument the family chose and designed, you knew that your friend or loved one would NEVER have chosen it themselves? This is something that I have seen more often then you might think. In one case, a 42 year old woman passed away and her parents designed her monument. Although her children hated it and insisted that their mother would have hated the design, since they were underage, there was nothing they could do about it. The children waited until their grandparents passed away, removed the original monument and replaced it with one they had designed to reflect the person their mother really was. Had their mother purchased and designed the monument herself, it would have not only prevented the tension between her children and parents, but it would have saved them from essentially paying double by purchasing two monuments.

If you have ever purchased a monument, you will know that it is not like picking out what to have for lunch. Instead, it is more like purchasing a car. Purchasing a monument on top of paying for a funeral can cause severe financial strain on family members. Even if you have life insurance, the amount they receive may only be enough to cover the funeral expenses. For many people, purchasing and installing a monument at the burial site is urgent because they not only feel it is disrespectful for visitors to be unable to find the person they love, but the thought of their loved one being in an “unmarked grave” is extremely unnerving. In the rush to get a monument installed, they can end up regretting the monument they chose because they did not think about it long enough, rather than taking the time to save the money to purchase the monument, they may wipe out their savings, not knowing if there will be an emergency before they can replenish the funds or they could even end up paying much more then a monument is worth by purchasing a monument off of the first dealer they find without researching the prices of other dealers. By pre-purchasing and designing your own monument, you are relieving your family of the extra stress that would be put on them if you had not. Rather than passing on the added stress of making these decisions, you are ensuring that they will be able to grieve for you long before anything ever happens.

When I tell people that, at 27, I have already designed my own monument, more often then not, they look at me like I am crazy. However, after I have explained why I have done so, most of them tell me that they are going to go home and begin researching so that they can do the same. There is nothing wrong with planning for death. There is not a single person alive who can avoid eventually passing away. So, why not plan for it to ensure that everything goes the way you would like it?

Please keep in mind that the date of passing CAN be added to the monument AFTER it has been installed. So, it is not necessary to wait for the person or people the monument is for to have passed in order to design the monument!

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To browse through a large variety of monuments, visit our website at: http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/index.html. In addition to the monuments shown, we can also order custom monuments. To view some of our custom monuments, visit the Custom Monuments page at: http://www.mikeslaseretching.com/custom_orders.html. We can design a monument off of any image or design you provide. If you have an idea of what you would like for your custom monument, but do not have a drawing, please let us know as we have an artist who can create a custom design for your review.

Once you have chosen the monument you would like, forward your information (including your name as you would like it to appear on the monument, your date of birth, any images or designs you would like included, the shape and size of any porcelain portraits you would like included in the design along with the image to be used and any designs or information you would like included on the back of the monument) to us and we will create a free preview for your review. The preview will allow you to see what the exact layout will be on the finished monument.

We look forward to working with you soon!

Add a Picture to an Existing Monument!

Did you purchase your loved one’s monument before you realized it was possible to include their photo? Did you think it was too expensive to include an image? When you visit the cemetery, do you see all the beautiful pictures on the stones and wish you could have your loved one’s picture on their monument too?

If so, you’re not alone and we now have a way to add that image without removing the entire monument or purchasing a new one!

Adding a Porcelain Portrait to your loved one’s monument is as easy as 1-2-3!

1. Take a look at the variety of shapes and sizes of porcelain tiles we have available and choose the one you want!

2. Contact Mike’s Laser Etching to place your order and be sure to include the image you would like on the Porcelain Portrait!

3. Receive the finished product in the mail (for non-local clients) and apply the porcelain to the monument with the VHB (very high bondage) tape!

Porcelain Portraits can even display them at home! If you really love the image of your loved one & want to display it in your home or office, order a duplicate! Porcelains can be displayed just like a decorative plate or on an easel stand! Plus, when you order a duplicate, you will receive a discount!

Photo Collage Upright Monument

What better way to honor a lost loved one then to show their life through photos? Bud’s family provided images which were taken throughout his entire life and asked that they all be included on the monument. Our Graphic Artist created this collage. No matter how many years pass by, people will be able to see all the accomplishments Bud’s family was so proud of!

Custom Dolphin Monument

This custom dolphin monument always reminds me of how peaceful and serene the Ocean makes me feel! What better way to remember a loved one who made them feel the same way?

Custom Motorcycle Design

Nothing helps celebrate someone’s life better than showing everyone who they were! It’s pretty easy to see how much Fred loved his motorcycle!